Smarter Citizens for Smarter Cities

India has launched in 2014 the 100 Smart cities Initiatives

I am in India, Mumbai, to report on the IEEE Smart City Initiatives. The Indian Government has launched the 100 Smart Cities Initiatives and is interested in getting external views.

Two lectures planned, on Keynote at Intelect 2015 and a Round Table plus several meetings with Indian authorities, some of them specifically interested in EIT ICT Labs.

Here I am summarising in a series of post the main concepts I am presenting.

Cities, since the very beginning of human history, have been characterized by infrastructures. These have been “hard” infrastructures, like roads, sewers, aqueducts,… and “soft” infrastructures like marketplaces, bulletin boards… Some of these infrastructures supported the life of the city (logistics, production….) others the thrift and lifestyle. 

In a way we can say that cities have always been smart and because of that they attracted people from the countryside and grew. On the other hand we can say that cities will never be smart, “smart” is not a point of arrival, it is a way to respond to challenges and these will change over time. Hence, I claim, being smart is about being responsive and walking on a path that continuously leverages on what is available to respond to needs. As technology progresses and need changes it is a continuous evolution, a direction not an arrival point.

The rapid evolution in Information Communications Technologies, ICT, is providing new tools to make existing hard infrastructures more efficient. It is also providing the opportunity of better infrastructures and even creating soft infrastructures as never in the past. Among these one that I feel can have the most impact on the future of our cities is the soft infrastructure made up by information and interacting citizens, these latter seen as both information provider and consumer. 

The bulleting boards of the Roman and medieval cities have now a sophistication and an effectiveness that people couldn’t dream just 100 years ago and the possibility for citizens to have a collective impact was unheard of in the past. 

 The use of ICT can dramatically change the relation city-citizens and create new evolution paths. In turns this requires facing new issues, including technical ones, like data openness, sharing, ownership, privacy and security.  All themes that we are addressing at the EIT ICT Labs.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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